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01st Jan 2017

SportsJOE’s end of year MMA awards because why not?

What a year of facepunching

Darragh Murphy

‘Tis the season for looking back at wars.

What an incredible year of face-punching we’ve had. We truly are blessed.

2016 was undoubtedly the most groundbreaking year in MMA history and one that produced so many talking points that there is no better way to summarise the twelve months than in the form of awards that mean absolutely nothing.

Here’s how we saw 2016…

Fighter of the Year – Michael Bisping

2. Stipe Miocic
3. Conor McGregor

So many worthy candidates and, of course, Conor McGregor’s hardcore fans are going to pipe up but we must remember that he lost in March.

Michael Bisping’s career resurgence in 2016, however, makes him a more-than-worthy winner.

‘The Count’ went 3-0 last year and he wasn’t just beating decent ranked competition.

He first rallied through huge adversity against Anderson Silva, arguably the greatest ever to grace the Octagon, to claim a victory in London.

Bisping then answered the short notice call to step in and fight rival Luke Rockhold for middleweight gold and recorded one of the upsets of the year by knocking him out in stunning style.

Then came the chance to avenge his most famous defeat as he overturned Dan Henderson in his home city of Manchester to retain his title and round out the greatest year of his storied career.

Knockout of the Year – Donald Cerrone vs. Rick Story

2. Lando Vannata vs. John Makdessi
3. Stipe Miocic vs. Fabricio Werdum

Donald Cerrone has looked like a damn ninja since moving up to welterweight and two of his 2016 knockouts have been like something out of the Matrix.

Matt Brown fell victim to the most recent fluid combination but there was just something special about the jab, right to the body and precise head kick that set up the finish against Rick ‘The Horror’ Story.

Submission of the Year – Mackenzie Dern vs. Montana Stewart

2. Miesha Tate vs. Holly Holm
3. Demian Maia vs. Carlos Condit

Mackenzie Dern hasn’t encountered much in the way of resistance since making her mixed martial arts debut in July.

The Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu superstar transitioned perfectly to MMA and proved that she will give any woman fits on the mat, providing our pick for submission of the year in her second pro fight.

After pursuing an omoplata midway through the opening round, Dern went in search of a rear naked choke during her Legacy Fighting Championship 61 clash with Montana Stewart.

The shoulder lock and choke combination was too much for Stewart, who had no option but to tap out after an overwhelming display of stunning grappling.

Fight of the Year – Marco Polo Reyes vs Dong Hyun Kim

2. Robbie Lawler vs. Carlos Condit
3. Conor McGregor vs. Nate Diaz II

What! A! War!!!

Not a backwards step was taken when Mexico’s Marco Polo Reyes clashed with South Korea’s Dong Hyun Kim (not that one).

There wasn’t much in the way of technically sound defence but the entertainment value was through the roof when the pair of lightweights swung heavy leather into each other’s jaw for 12 minutes at UFC 199 in June.

The first round was one of the best rounds of the year…. And then the second round was one of the best rounds of the year.

Kim’s ability to take a shot and battle through exhaustion was as admirable as Polo Reyes’ stunning arsenal which saw him get the finish in the third round.

Round of the Year  – Cub Swanson vs. Doo Ho Choi (round two)

2. Tony Ferguson vs. Lando Vannata (round one)
3. Marco Polo Reyes vs Dong Hyun Kim (round one)

Cub Swanson did not take too kindly to being an underdog for his UFC 206 match-up with baby-faced knockout artist Doo Ho Choi.

The result was never in question, which is not often the case in classic wars, as Swanson was in charge for the vast majority of the featherweight meeting.

But the heart and absence of quit in Choi, coupled with the barrages of attacks from both men, meant round two was never going to be forgotten.

Event of the Year – UFC 205

2. UFC 206
3. UFC 202

It was the best UFC card on paper and, unlike UFC 200, UFC 205 delivered with the kind of quality fights that not only made it the card of the year but, quite possibly, the greatest UFC event of all time.

The promotion’s debut in New York City had absolutely everything.

Three title fights, a legendary war in the form of the welterweight co-main event between Tyron Woodley and Stephen Thompson, the retirement of a fan favourite in Miesha Tate, history being made by the organisation’s biggest star.

It had it all.

Breakout Star of the Year – Mickey Gall

2. Brandon Moreno
3. Lando Vannata

There were some stunning UFC debuts last year but the speed and ease with which Mickey Gall has gone from a discovery on a reality show to a bona fide superstar-in-the-making has turned him into the pick of the bunch.

The 24-year-old maintained his undefeated record last year with repeated displays of his grappling brilliance but it was his adroitness with microphone in hand that has made him must-watch television.

He had the wherewithal to call out CM Punk in order to guarantee unprecedented levels of exposure and he disposed of the former WWE superstar with ease.

Then he knew precisely what he was doing as he aimed to derail a second hype train in as many fights by challenging Sage Northcutt. Northcutt too fell victim to Gall’s trusty rear naked choke.

All signs point to a successful career for the Miller brothers-trained fighter and his 2016 stands out most strikingly among his fellow newcomers.